William Guarnere was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 28 April 1923 to Italian parents Joseph and Augusta Guarnere, with ten other siblings. He attended Citizens Military Training Camp for three summers, which took 4 years to complete. His mother had lied to the owners that Guarnere was 17 when he was actually 15. It was cancelled when war broke out in Europe.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Guarnere found work as a Sherman Tank maker at Baldwin Locomotive Works. However, his mom wasn't happy that he hadn't finished high school since none of his other siblings did, so he returned and graduated from South Philadelphia High School in 1942.
He went through rough training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia under Captain Herbert Sobel. After training at Camp Mackall, he and the 101st went to Aldbourne, England to train further and await the Normandy invasion. At Aldbourne, Guarnere was among the NCOs who mutinied against Sobel due to his ineptness in tactical leadership. For this, he and the other NCOs were upbraided by Colonel Robert F. Sink, commander of the 506th.
In Upottery, England, the night before the invasion of Normandy, Guarnere found out his brother had been killed at Monte Casino, Italy. He made the parachute drop on D-day, was separated from his company, and later successfully regrouped with the rest of the company. The unit encountered a German patrol and ambushed it, affording Guarnere his revenge for the loss of his brother at Monte Casino.
Guarnere fought in Operation Market Garden. He helped drag wounded Lt. Compton to safety at the town of Nuenen and later gathered a group of men to find the missing "Bull" Randleman. While taking a joyride on a stolen motorcycle, Guarnere was hit in the leg by a sniper. He went AWOL from the hospital to get back to Easy Company, was caught and was going to be busted to Private, but the court martial papers were lost. He told them he would keep going AWOL until he was allowed to return.
Guarnere returned to Easy Company and was again made Staff Sergeant, fighting at the Battle of the Bulge. At Bastogne, Joe Toye had his leg blasted off and Bill tried dragging him to safety, only to have his own leg mangled in a subsequent shell attack. As they were taking him away, he said to Joe Toye "...I told you I'd beat you back to the States." His leg was amputated and he received the Purple Heart. He was then discharged and went home.
After the war, Guarnere had many jobs: a salesman, a clerk, and a carpenter among them. He eventually married a woman named Frances (Frannie) and had two sons. He wore an artificial leg, which he retired after he retired. He and Private Heffron wrote a joint memoir, Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story, which described their combat experiences.
He was later interviewed for the book and HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers.
Guarnere died of a ruptured aneurysm on 8 March 2014.
Bill was a friendly, joking man but was also very level headed. He was very brave as evidenced by his return to the fields of battle despite injuries. He did that because of the friendships he had made.